Toronto Maple Leafs Mats Sundin, from Sweden, celebrates his second period goal with teammate Alex Steen (left) during National Hockey League action in Toronto, Tuesday Nov.20, 2007. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
TORONTO - Tuukka Rask remembers getting the phone call on June 24, 2006, telling him he was no longer a Maple Leaf just a year after Toronto had drafted him.
"It was during the biggest midsummer party in Finland," recalled Rask. "It was 2 a.m., so you can imagine how I felt when they called me. Next day I was kind of surprised and realized what happened."
He became property of the Boston Bruins with goalie Andrew Raycroft going to Toronto in exchange. In what couldn't possibly have been the worst-case scenario for Leafs GM John Ferguson on Tuesday night, Rask was named the game's first star after stopping 30 of 32 shots while the Leafs coughed up a 2-0 lead to lost 4-2 to the Bruins.
"A game like tonight, where we are up two goals and let Boston get back into the game, it's certainly very disappointing," said Leafs captain Mats Sundin. "It was an important game for us."
The 20-year-old Rask didn't hide the fact that getting his first career NHL win in his first career NHL start against the team that drafted him 21st overall in the 2005 NHL entry draft was sweet indeed.
"Of course, it means a lot," Rask said. "It was fun to play, to show them that I'm good enough to play at this level."
It was a game Toronto seemingly had in hand. For nearly 50 minutes they played the same boring but effective style that beat the Ottawa Senators on Saturday.
Then the Leafs' sore spot, defensive zone coverage, resurfaced just in time for P.J. Axelsson to tie the game 2-2 at 9:52 of the third period and for Chuck Kobasew to win it with 3:31 left.
Phil Kessel also scored for the Bruins (10-7-2), who beat the Leafs for the second time in less than a week after a 5-2 win at home last Thursday.
Sundin and Bryan McCabe scored for the Maple Leafs (8-9-5), who outshot the Bruins 32-25.
"The frustration now is trying to get a good solid defensive game out of our team," said Leafs head coach Paul Maurice. "We give up 25 shots, not a whole lot, but now we're not generating much offence at the other end."
The patrons at Air Canada Centre should have asked for their money back. Both the Bruins and Leafs were content with a low-risk, brutally defensive approach that featured dump ins and dump outs and very little else until Boston's late comeback.
The Leafs opened the scoring during a power play 15:10 into the first period. McCabe's pass attempt deflected off Bruins centre Glen Metropolit and behind Rask.
The fluky goal gave Toronto some wings and the Leafs had the better of play for most of the second period.
Sundin then made it 2-0 at 15:36 of the middle period on a goal no NHL goalie should give up, his blast from just inside the blue-line beating Rask - who was not screened - on the stick side. To Rask's defence, the puck was on edge when Sundin shot it and had a sinker effect on it.
"It wasn't tipped, but it was a curveball," said Rask.
The Bruins came to life when Kessel scored with only 47.9 seconds to go in the second period during a Boston power play. The second-year forward one-timed a nifty pass from behind the net by Kobasew. The goal ended Toskala's personal best shutout streak at 141 minutes 47 seconds.
Boston carried the play into the third period and pressed until finally getting the equalizer. Axelsson scored his first goal of the season at 9:52 when he one-timed a shot into an empty net after a nice deke and pass from Marc Savard that got Toskala to commit.
That set up Kobasew's heroics. The Bruins winger ripped a wrist shot from the slot that beat Toskala on the stick side, then capped the scoring with an empty-netter 26.7 seconds from the end.
Notes: Boston was 1-for-2 on the power play while Toronto was 1-for-4 ... Anaheim Ducks GM Brian Burke took in the game ,,, Sundin's goal moved him into sole possession of 27th all-time on the NHL goal list with 534, one ahead of Frank Mahovlich. Teemu Selanne is Sundin's next target at 540 ... Leafs defenceman Tomas Kaberle had two assists on the night, giving him 300 for his NHL career ... Tim Thomas had started 10 straight games before giving way to Rask on Tuesday. Rask was 7-2-0 with a 2.10 goals-against average in nine AHL games at Providence this season ... Boston goalie Manny Fernandez, out since Oct. 30 with a knee injury, is expected to be activated Wednesday ... The Bruins next play a home-and-home set with the New York Islanders on Friday and Saturday ... The Leafs travel West and play Friday at Dallas followed by a Saturday game at Phoenix.